Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Review + GIVEAWAY: Christmas at Grey Sage


Christmas at Grey Sage
By Phyllis Clark Nichols
Gilead Publishing, 2017


Summary

This Christmas, there's plenty of room at the inn.

Nestled in the snow-covered Sangre de Cristo Mountains near Santa Fe, the Grey Sage Inn looks like the perfect place for weary travelers to escape the craziness of the Christmas season. There's plenty to see in historic Santa Fe during the day, and the inn's owners, Maude and Silas Thornhill, are happy to spend their evenings hosting this year's guests from across the country.

But an unusual snowstorm throws a wrench in the festive mood. The sprawling inn becomes close quarters as stranded guests discover this Christmas won't be the relaxed vacation they expected. Tension and fear mount as the storm worsens, and Silas, a retired doctor, is called away in the middle of the night to care for a neighbor. The snow and stress unlocks tongues-and in the unexpected conversation that follows, secrets and pasts are revealed, and hearts are healed.

In the midst of snowdrifts and fireside conversations, of tales of days gone by, the warmth of Christmas brings a renewed hope as these trapped strangers become friends-proof again that the joy, hope, peace, and love of Christmas can be experienced no matter where you are.

Learn more and purchase a copy.




My thoughts

Christmas at Grey Sage is a charming story that I could read over and over again … a classic that captures the essence of all that Christmas should be … a gem. It’s about hospitality, caring, sacrifice, giving – and finding that you received more than you could ever give away. The story is character driven, not fast paced, and therein lies its beauty.

When Maude opened the door to the Christmas closet
in early December that year, she had no reason
to think there would only be nine more
Christmases celebrated at Grey Sage.
- 1973

The story opens in 1973, then jumps ahead to 2005, with Silas and Maude preparing to receive guests at their undecorated inn located in the foothills of New Mexico’s Sangre de Cristo Mountains. This “Unlikely Christmas Party” consists of ten people of various ages, backgrounds, talents, and stages of life – the common denominator being their desire to be far from home at Christmas. But just as God interrupts our plans in life, this group found that things did not quite go as planned, and thus begins their real journey.

From the art shops on Canyon Road, to the luminaries lining the streets, the author does an incredible job of bringing the sights, sounds, and aroma of Santa Fe at Christmas to life – so much so that I would visit if the opportunity presented itself. Back at the inn after a day’s shopping, I felt like I was right there in the room during their “show and tell” recap, gaining a better understanding of each guest.

If God could come to earth at Christmas and
make us his children, we can at least try
to make these strangers our friends.”
- Silas

As everyone started to relax and open up, including Maude and Silas, I couldn’t help but think of Christ’s words in Matthew 25, “I was a stranger and you took me in.” In this unplanned, seemingly accidental gathering, Christmas of 2005 became the time when “we take these broken dreams and memories of past Christmases and make something good of them again” (Maude).

From its sober premise at the beginning, Christmas at Grey Sage becomes a story where surprises along life’s way are enjoyed, a story of hope that will inspire all who read it.

Christmas is the time when strangers become friends.”
- Maude

Highly recommended.




I was provided a copy of this book through Litfuse Publicity and Gilead Publishing. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.

http://litfusegroup.com/author/pnichols

_________________________


Phyllis Clark Nichols believes everyone could use a little more hope and light. Her character-driven Southern fiction explores profound human questions from within the simple lives of small town communities you just know you've visited before. With a love for nature, art, faith and ordinary people, she tells redemptive tales of loss and recovery, estrangement and connection, longing and fulfillment, often through surprisingly serendipitous events.

Phyllis grew up in the deep shade of magnolia trees in South Georgia. Now she lives in the Texas Hill Country with her portrait-artist husband, where red birds and axis deer are her ever-ravenous neighbors. She is an English major and classically-trained musician, seminary graduate, concert artist and co-founder of a national cable network for the health and disability-related programming.

After retiring as a cable network executive, Phyllis began leading mission teams to orphanages in Guatemala and now serves on three non-profit boards where she works with others who are equally passionate about bringing hope and light to those who need it most.

Find out more about Phyllis at http://www.phyllisclarknichols.com.


GIVEAWAY

To enter the drawing for a print copy of Christmas at Grey Sage, please click on this link and share my Facebook post, then leave a comment here to let me know that you shared. 

BE SURE to leave your name and your email address in a safe format - [at] and [dot] - for the drawing. E-mail required for entry. Contest ends at midnight PST on Wednesday, December 20. Winner will be chosen by random.org and contacted by e-mail.

Eligibility: US residents

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity and Gilead Publishing for making this giveaway possible.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Grand Finale (+ Tour GIVEAWAY): The Happiness Pact


On Tour with Prism Book Tours

Book Tour Grand Finale for
The Happiness Pact
By Liz Flaherty

We hope you enjoyed the tour! If you missed any of the stops
you can see snippets, as well as the link to each full post, below:

Launch - Note from the Author

Thank you so much for joining me on the tour for THE HAPPINESS PACT. I am embarrassingly excited about and proud of this book. 

Born twenty-seven minutes apart in the same hospital, Tucker and Libby are each other’s first roommates and lifelong best friends. At their thirty-fourth birthday party, Tucker admits that it’s time—he’s ready to settle down with a wife, some kids, and a four-bedroom, two-bath house. Libby’s a little horrified by that, since her wish is for adventure without encumbrance. They decide to devote six months to helping each other fulfill their dreams, and THE HAPPINESS PACT is born.

—Liz


Seventeen and a half years ago, on prom night, she’d been in an automobile accident that killed three people and forever changed the lives of the other nine in the church van they’d used for transport. The losses had caused ripples in the small community of Lake Miniagua that could still be felt all this time later. The wreck had come almost exactly a year after Libby’s mother’s death from cancer, and a year before her father’s suicide. 

Everything had changed with that painful string of events, naturally enough, but she’d made a life for herself in its aftermath. Although that life was mostly uneventful, she never lost the feeling that any minute now, the other shoe would drop. 


"I loved this book. It has a lot of things going on in the story. I could relate to many of the issues the characters experienced.

The characters are well-developed and I enjoyed getting to know them all and it was easy to feel their emotions. . . .

I would highly recommend this book to other readers."

- Vickie

"This is a steady moving, well-written story. . . .

I enjoyed the writing skill of the author in masking strong language, keeping the read's interest and in creating the characters , along with scenes, which draws the reader "into" the tale.

The only thing I found unsettling was it was slightly dragged out, yet done so very well."

- LAWonder10

Paulette's Papers - Guest Post

I think it was a pact. Between Louisa May Alcott, Dorothy Canfield Fisher, Kate Douglas Wiggin, Lucy Maud Montgomery, and a whole host of other writers who wrote exclusively for young people. I think they wanted to fill gaps in lives, incite laughter where there wasn’t enough, and provide a psychological hankie to dry tears no one else knew were being shed.

I am still happy when I’m reading.

In The Happiness Pact, Libby and Tucker are best friends from the time they were born twenty-seven minutes apart in the same hospital. They fill in the gaps, laugh together long and loud, and ease each other’s pain as they grow up. On their thirty-fourth birthdays, however, when they would have thought they’d learned all the words in each other’s life books, they find out just how wrong they were. Libby wants adventure and Tucker wants a family.

How they find their answers, and make their dreams come true, is what The Happiness Pact is about. I hope you like their story. I hope reading it makes you happy.


“Do you want to take Jack some coffee?”

But Tucker didn’t answer her. His attention had already strayed. He went to greet Marie with a hug, seeming not to be in a hurry anymore. Libby shook her head, ignoring a ribbon of sadness the couple’s seemingly mutual attraction created at the back of her mind. She liked being single, always had, but sometimes it would be nice if someone looked at her the way Tuck was looking at Marie.


I loved writing this book. Tucker is gorgeous—he’s also a klutz. Libby is so ordinary that she fears wearing brown will make her disappear altogether. They made my heart ache, but even before they started down the path of “more,” I loved their relationship.

And I think more is the wrong word. Because there is nothing more or better than friendship. And there’s nothing deeper than the friendship between two people who love each other. While it’s wonderful and desirable to have friends who aren’t lovers, who would want a lover who wasn’t also a friend? I think that’s why, when writers talk about tropes and which ones are our favorites, I jump right onto the friends-to-lovers train.

Heidi Reads... - Excerpt

He blinked again. “You have very pretty eyes. Did you know that?”

She rolled them. At least, she was fairly certain she did. They didn’t seem to be stopping quite where she wanted them to. “They’re battleship gray.”

“No.” He leaned closer to stare into them. “They have little blue sparkles around the edges of—what is it you call the colored part?”

“I call it Iris in my right eye and Georgina in my left. And there isn’t any blue there, unless bourbon and Mollie’s secret ingredient interfere with your vision. Which could well be,” she conceded and peered into their mugs. “These are empty.”

Remembrancy - Review

"I love stories in the friends to more trope. Know what’s even better? BFFs who have been friends since birth who fall in love with each other, and Liz Flaherty hits it out of the park with The Happiness Pact."


“You won’t believe me.”

“Try me.”

He shrugged. “Okay. But I’ve never told anyone this.” He raised a peremptory finger. “Don’t laugh, either. You know how easily I cry.”

She snorted. She could count on one hand the times she’d seen him cry, not counting when they were in the same room in nearby Sawyer Hospital’s newborn nursery—and anything she said about that would be pure conjecture. The last time had been at Arlie and Jack’s impromptu engagement party only a few days before. Libby had been the one who brought him to tears, and she’d loved it. “Let’s hear it, big boy. Your secret will be safe with me.”

After clearing his throat, finishing his coffee and clearing his throat again, he said, “I want to get married. I want to have a kid. I want to buy a house that’s just a house—you know, four bedrooms, two baths and a basketball hoop in the driveway. With a garage that’s too full of sports equipment and garden tools to get the cars in it.”


"The Happiness Pact by Liz Flaherty is romantic and swoony and sassy and sweet. Tucker and Libby may not think they have any chemistry, but they do! I loved their shared moments, their shared memories, and their shared kisses.

A great read with a great message!"

I Am A Reader - Guest Post

Since the title of my book is The Happiness Pact, my mind has gone to all things happy, including the books I’ve read. Choosing a few is a little like picking a favorite child, but I’m going for ten in no particular order. We’ll see how it works out. Let me know how alike—or how drastically different!—our favorites are.


"Huge Dynamite 5 Stars for The Happiness Pact by Liz Flaherty. This was the first book I've read by Ms. Flaherty and I absolutely loved it! Such a wonderfully sweet, heart-warming tale."


He had been her friend her whole life. When no one asked her to dance in the seventh grade, he had—and he’d seen to it his friends followed suit. When she’d had her appendix removed during freshman year, he’d brought her homework and helped her do it. Her mother died when she was fifteen, and he’d supported her through all the stages of grief—over and over again—until she could bear it. Her father’s suicide a few years later had thrown her right back into the maelstrom of mourning, and Tucker had been there for her again even though life had dealt him some hurts of his own.
He’d bought her the telescope that time. “See the stars?” he’d said. “They’re still there. Wish on them if you want, but they’re their own reward. No matter what happens, the stars will guide you to a safe place. You’ll be able to see Venus up close and talk to her whenever you like.” He’d never laughed at her assertion that Venus was indeed her guardian planet—and feminine in the bargain.


"The Happiness Pact is an enjoyable romance from Liz Flaherty. . . .

The Happiness Pact pretty much has Hallmark movie (or series!) written all over it (they would, of course, take out the depression thread, or tone it down). It's an enjoyable read, and I wouldn't hesitate to return to this world that Flaherty has created."


When Tucker and Libby go looking for happiness in The Happiness Pact, they find it in unexpected places, such as helping a calf be born in a barn during a blizzard.

Although that wouldn’t be my first choice for how to spend a romantic evening, I do have a soft spot for the unexpected. For instance, I grew up on a small farm in the middle of the cornfields of Central Indiana. All I wanted was to move to a city and write books...


"My favorite part was when Libby calls Tucker. She's in a bad place and doesn't say anything when he picks up. His answer? "Oh, hi. I'll be right there." That right there is friendship. And that right there? That's love.

I enjoyed this book although there were some slow parts. The characters were great and the ending was perfect."


“Hey, if I know anything, it’s adventure. That’s why when Jack and I divided up the CEO job at Llewellyn’s Lures, I got all the travel parts. Even when I headquartered at the Tennessee plant, I traveled to Michigan at least a half dozen times a year. That meant I stopped at all points in between just in case I’d missed something along the way.”

“I can’t travel. I can’t afford it, for one thing, and I have the tearoom, for another—which I’m going to enlarge this year by making the carriage house into a smallish event center. I need my adventures to be of the cheap, two-hour variety.”

“You have Sundays and Mondays off and an assistant manager who’d love to have some time in there without her micromanaging boss.”


"The happiness pact by liz Flaherty is a great read about friends who become more. . . . This book is so amazing. It touches on some very real emotional issues that may hit a little to close to home for some. I am so glad I got the opportunity to read this one. I can not wait for more from Liz Flaherty."


Since I’m not much of a movie person—other than Hallmark Christmas movies, which could be several blogs unto themselves—a friend suggested a list of the movies that made me smile. The catch is, #One, I’m not a movie watcher and #Two, in order to be entered to win a Christmas stocking with a book in it, you need to post with a movie that makes you happy. Or more than one will be fine, too, but just one entry. I’m sorry, but the drawing will be US only, although if the name selected is from outside the country, I’ll be happy to send a download.

So, here’s my list. In no particular order, because I’m way too linear as it is—I’m going to be a little wild and crazy.

And don't forget to enter the giveaway below, if you haven't already...


The Happiness Pact
by Liz Flaherty
Contemporary Romance
Paperback & ebook, 384 pages
December 1st 2017 by Harlequin Heartwarming

The fine line between BFF and happily-ever-after…

Tucker Llewellyn and Libby Worth—strictly platonic!—realize they’re each at a crossroads. Tucker is successful, but he wants a wife and kids: the whole package. Libby knows that small-town life has her set in her ways; the tearoom owner needs to get out more.

So they form a pact: Libby will play matchmaker and Tucker will lead her on the adventure she desperately needs. But the electricity Libby feels when they shake on it should be a warning sign. Soon the matchmaking mishaps pile up, and a personal crisis tests Libby’s limits. Will Tucker be there for her as a best friend…or something more?


About the Author


Liz Flaherty was a little nervous about retiring from her day job, but making quilts, more family time, traveling at the mere mention of “why don’t we go...” and becoming a Harlequin Heartwarming author have made the past years more fun and exciting than she could ever have imagined.

WebsiteBlogGoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest


Tour Giveaway


5 winners will receive a signed copy of EVERY TIME WE SAY GOODBYE and a Christmas stocking
US only
Ends December 13th

Review (+ Tour GIVEAWAY): Unnatural Causes




Unnatural Causes
By Dawn Eastman
A Dr. Katie LeClair Mystery #1
Crooked Lane Books, 2017


Summary

Katie LeClair has finally settled down as the new doctor in Baxter, MI. After years of moving, schooling, and training, she wants nothing more than to find a place she can call home, and a small town outside of Ann Arbor seemed perfect.

Katie quickly gets to work in building a life for herself in Baxter, and beyond reviving her love life, she also finds a pair of business partners in a team of father and son family practitioners. But that idyllic dream is immediately shattered when one of her patients is found dead. That wouldn’t be the worst thing, except the death is ruled a suicide, and as evidence has it, the suicide was a result of the medication Katie had prescribed. But she doesn’t remember writing it.

When a closer investigation reveals it was murder, Katie is catapulted into an off-the-books investigation that leads her down a dark path of past secrets. But someone is willing to kill to keep part of the town’s history in the shadows, and Katie must race to find out who before it’s too late in nationally bestselling author Dawn Eastman’s riveting series debut Unnatural Causes.


My thoughts

Unnatural Causes is a very good mystery that begins a new series by Dawn Eastman. From the book’s description and cover, I suspected that it might lean more toward suspense than I cared for, but that wasn’t the case at all. Unnatural Causes has more character depth than the average mystery, and it combines elements of both cozy and traditional mysteries. The story is clean, which I very much appreciate, and there’s even a hint of romance.

A story is only as strong as its lead character, and Dr. Katie LeClair is a winner – intelligent, caring, and with a gentle sense of humor. She has a weakness for animals, which endeared her to Chief Carlson when she rescued his dog from injury. In the early stages of medical practice, Katie has a love for her patients, an eye for detail, and a willingness to spend the time it takes to get things right that I hope she never loses. An insight into her medical practice is one of this novel’s strengths.

The small-town setting of Baxter, just outside of Ann Arbor, is very appealing. The mystery itself is very well plotted and I enjoyed trying to figure things out along with Katie. The only difficulty I had was in trying to keep suspects’ relationships straight, but that didn’t lessen my enjoyment. I also loved the relationship between Katie and Caleb, her computer-genius brother, and hope to see a lot more from him as the series continues.

Recommended.

I was provided a copy of this book through Great Escapes Tours and the publisher. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.

_________________________


National bestselling author Dawn Eastman was a family medicine physician in Michigan. Now she lives in Iowa with her husband, son, and daughter. When not writing, she keeps busy catering to the whims of a bossy bichon-shih tzu mix who wants to rule the world.

This is her first Dr. Katie LeClair mystery. She is also the author of THE FAMILY FORTUNE MYSTERIES .

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Purchase Links
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GIVEAWAY

When entering the giveaway, please help spread the word by clicking on this link and sharing my Facebook post, then leave a comment here.



Saturday, December 9, 2017

Review (+ Tour GIVEAWAY): Honey-Baked Homicide




Honey-Baked Homicide
By Gayle Leeson
A Down South Café Mystery #3
Berkley, 2017


Summary

The owner of a delightful Southern café tastes the sharp sting of suspicion in this delectable comfort food mystery . . .

It’s fall in Winter Garden, Virginia, and business at Amy Flowers’ Down South Café has never been better. So when struggling beekeeper Stuart Landon asks Amy to sell some of his honey, she’s happy to help. The jars of honey are a sweet success, but their partnership is cut short when Amy discovers Landon’s body outside the café early one morning.

As Amy tries to figure out who could possibly have wanted to harm the unassuming beekeeper, she discovers an ever-expanding list of suspects—and they’re all buzzing mad. She’ll have to use all of her skills—and her Southern charm—to find her way out of this sticky situation…


My thoughts

With Honey-Baked Homicide, Gayle Leeson adds another volume to one of my favorite cozy mystery series, consistently delivering on stories that entertain, have good character depth, and are totally clean. This series embodies all that I look for in a cozy mystery – small-town setting that I’d love to visit, appealing and sometimes quirky characters, and a well-plotted, intelligent mystery. Honey-Baked Homicide is #3 in the series, but easily stands alone.

Amy, owner of the Down South Café in Winter Garden, Virginia, is an appealing lead character with some very interesting family and friends around her – and you can almost smell the tantalizing aromas coming from the café. Two things impress me about this story … Amy’s boyfriend and police officer, Ryan, shares what he can, but not more than he ought to; and Amy doesn’t do foolish things that would place her in danger.

Amy’s Aunt Bess is quite the character … “Disagreeing with Aunt Bess was like trying to teach trigonometry to a pig – frustrating for you and confusing to the pig” (Amy). And as a Pinterest fan myself, I loved her board entitled “People I’ve Outlived.” I just might have to copy that idea!

And then there’s Homer … I first met Homer in the previous book, Silence of the Jams (click title for review), and he is becoming more and more of a standout character. Having grown up poor, Homer draws inspiration from a new “hero” each day, always sharing a quote from the hero that applied to the subject at hand.

I’m particularly drawn to the mystery in this story, for it revolves around the murder of a quiet man who pretty much kept to himself and was passionate about beekeeping. A dysfunctional family emerges on the scene after his death and some untapped oil reserves just might be involved. Just a well-crafted mystery in every way.

Honey-Baked Homicide is a story that any cozy mystery fan should enjoy and I'm hoping for many more stories in this series. Highly recommended.

I was provided a copy of this book through Great Escapes Tours and Berkley. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.


_________________________



Gayle Leeson is a pseudonym for Gayle Trent. I also write as Amanda Lee. As Gayle Trent, I write the Daphne Martin Cake Mystery series  and the Myrtle Crumb Mystery series . As Amanda Lee, I write the Embroidery Mystery series .

The cake decorating series features a heroine who is starting her life over in Southwest Virginia after a nasty divorce. The heroine, Daphne, has returned to her hometown of Brea Ridge to open a cake baking and decorating business and is wrestling with the question of whether or not one can go home again. She enjoys spending time with her sister, nephew, and niece, but she and her mother have a complicated relationship that isn’t always pleasant. Daphne has also reconnected with her high school sweetheart and is pursuing a rekindled romance while desperately trying to put her past behind her.

Kerry Vincent, Hall of Fame Sugar Artist, Oklahoma State Sugar Art Show Director, and Television Personality says the series is “a must read for cake bakers and anyone who has ever spent creative time in the kitchen!”

Says Dean Koontz, #1 New York Times bestselling author, “One day I found myself happily reading . . . mysteries by Gayle Trent. If she can win me over . . . she’s got a great future.”

The Embroidery Mystery series features a heroine who recently moved to the Oregon coast to open an embroidery specialty shop. Marcy Singer left her home in San Francisco, along with the humiliation of being left at the altar, in order to move to Tallulah Falls and realize her dream of owning her own shop. She takes along her faithful companion, a one-year-old Irish wolfhound named Angus O’Ruff. She makes many new friends in Tallulah Falls, but she also makes a few enemies. Thankfully, her best friend Sadie MacKenzie and her husband Blake run the coffeehouse right down the street from Marcy’s shop, the Seven-Year Stitch; and Detective Ted Nash always has her back.

Publishers Weekly says, “Fans of the genre will take kindly to Marcy, her Irish wolfhound, Angus O’Ruff, and Tallulah Falls. This is a fast, pleasant read with prose full of pop culture references and, of course, sharp needlework puns.”

Pat Cooper of RT Book Reviews says, “If her debut here is any indication, Lee’s new series is going to be fun, spunky and educational. She smoothly interweaves plot with her character’s personality and charm, while dropping tantalizing hints of stitching projects and their history. Marcy Singer is young, fun, sharp and likable. Readers will be looking forward to her future adventures.” (RT Book Reviews nominated The Quick and the Thread for a 2010 Book Reviewers’ Choice Award in the Amateur Sleuth category)

I live in Virginia with my family, which includes her own “Angus” who is not an Irish wolfhound but a Great Pyrenees who provides plenty of inspiration for the character of Mr. O’Ruff. I’m having a blast writing this new series!

Website - Gayle LeesonWebsite - Gayle TrentFacebookTwitterPinterestInstagram

Purchase Links:
AmazonBarnes & NobleBooks-A-MillionIndiebound


GIVEAWAY

As you enter this drawing, please click on this link and share my Facebook post, then leave a comment here. Thank you for helping to spread the word!